Posts Tagged ‘Fast food choices’


Life does not slow down in the fast food lane for most families. With value menus and drive through windows, eating out can be a convenient and economical option for busy families. However, with obesity and chronic diseases reaching epidemic rates, it is important that families make informed choices. Setting good examples and teaching children how to make healthy choices in restaurants are important lessons in today’s day and age. Here are a few healthy tips when eating out:

 Reduce fats, saturated fats, and cholesterol

  • Choose plain burgers, or beef or grilled chicken sandwiches; leave off the sauce, mayonnaise, cheese, and bacon.
  • Choose regular yellow mustard.
  • Avoid or limit fried foods—fish, chicken, French fries, onion rings, etc.
  • Select broiled or grilled instead of fried.
  • Drink water or 1% or skim milk.
  • Order your tacos on a plain soft tortilla.
  • Skip croissants and biscuits.
  • Eat raw veggies and green salads with a low-fat oil-based dressing.
  • Choose small portions; don’t choose a large or up-sized value meal.
  • Skip dessert.

Limit sugar

  • Use less ketchup, pickle relish, honey mustard, jelly, honey, BBQ sauce, etc.
  • Avoid gelatin salads.
  • Avoid sweetened fruits at the salad bar—use fresh fruit instead.
  • Avoid sweetened soft drinks and shakes—ask for milk, water
  • Skip sweet desserts.

Limit sodium

  • Say no to pickles.
  • Limit salad dressings—use a lemon wedge instead.
  • Avoid processed poultry and meat (chicken nuggets, some roast beef).
  • Limit sausage, ham, bacon, and biscuits.
  • Don’t add table salt to meals.
  • Limit cheese.

 Increase fiber

  • Choose fresh vegetables and fruits at the salad bar.
  • Select sandwiches with tomatoes and lettuce.
  • Choose whole grain or multi-grain buns.
  • Eat baked potatoes and the skins—go easy on the toppings.
  • Choose foods that include dry beans—burritos, chili, salad bar toppings.

Other tips to remember

  • Breakfasts are easy to make at home; buy prepackaged 6-ounce yogurts and have quick items such as cereals, bagels, English muffins, juice, and milk on hand.
  • Frozen, low-fat healthy meals that are microwaveable will provide correct serving sizes and are easy to prepare. These are convenient meals for lunch or dinner.
  • Weekly meals should be a combination of quick cooking ideas, frozen dinners, and supplemental foods      (fresh, frozen, canned, and deli). Try to limit eating out when possible.
  • Choose a lighter option such as fresh salads with grilled chicken, fruit bowls with low-fat yogurt, or substituting a side salad or plain baked potato for French fries.
  • Check out www.MyPlate.gov for individualized recommendations based on age, gender, and activity level.
  • Consider new apps that will help you understand nutrition information. Apps such as Calorie King and MyFitnessPal are a few examples that are popular.

Don’t think that you have use all of these tips to stay health, but remember even small changes add up over time. For example, just drinking water instead of a regular cola twice a week translates into avoiding about 130 pounds of sugar a year!

Writer: Daniel Remley, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition & Wellness, Ohio State University Extension.

Reviewer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Adapted from OSU Extension Factsheet HYG-5555-06.

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As spring time arrives, there are many busy schedules with work, school activities, children’s sports schedules and other countless activities that can leave families with minimal time for sit down meals. This ultimately can affect food choices and family meal time.  Ideally, it is healthiest to avoid the fast food venue. In the event you need a “quick fix” for a family meal, use these strategies to make smart choices at the drive at the drive through or counter.

Once In A While

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests keeping trips to fast food restaurants as treats, rather than routine meals. If you keep your family’s usual diet well-balanced and low in fat, a occassional fast food trip won’t hurt you. On the other hand, frequent consumption of high fat foods is unhealthy for adults and children.


A balanced diet that includes a variety of foods will benefit your family’s overall health, setting a standard for healthy eating habits. Review what your family eats over the course of the whole day, rather than the meal itself.  If your dinner will be at a fast food venue, eat foods throughout the day are lower in fat, calories and sodium to compensate for excesses you get in a fast food meal.

Smart Choices

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that whenever your family dines out, you need to pay attention to food portion and remember that drinks contain calories, too. Try some of these tips :

  • Watch portion sizes.  Do your really need to upgrade and get the supersized or “combo” meals.  20 years ago a portion of french fries in an average fast food restaurant consisted of about 20 fries, weighed 2.

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    4 oz, and contained about 210 calories.Today’s portion is 6.9 ounces and has 610 calories.  This is 400 more calories than the 2.4 oz of 20 years ago.
  • Choose lean meats, like turkey breast and thin sliced roast beef from the deli.
  • Steer away from fried foods. If your family can’t resist them, order only a small serving or share an order.
  • Save empty calories from soda and sweet tea.
  • Choose grilled or broiled chicken on a whole grain bread with low-fat condiments like mustard, ketchup, salsa, or low-fat mayonnaise if it’s available.

Written by: Susan Zies, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension.

Source: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Fact Sheet FS1091,  Eating Together- Eating Well: Fast Food.. Can It Be Healthy In A Pinch?

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